beverage containers and recycling

Joe Strahl (
Fri, 22 Jan 1999 16:13:55 -0500


I read John Reindl's message about Bornholm, DK and thought that I'd
add my two crowns/cents:

John read in the Warmer Bulletin about the bottle banks there but
writes that the article didn't say how many people lived on the
island. Here you go:

Bornholm has about 45 thousand inhabitants on 587 square kilometers.
To put things in perspective: Bornholm is separated from the rest of
Denmark proper and is closer to Sweden or Germany than the rest of
Denmark. When Denmark or Sweden test various experiments with MSW
collection they ususally use a semi-closed system to see the results
before going onward.

I understand that Bornholm obtains about 25% of its energy needs from
renewables (essentially windpower and biomass) or did I read that
they intend to do this by the year 2000 (?) can't recall.

If you want to talk to the Bornholm Danes directly: The county
government can be reached by writing to:

Bornholms Amt
Ullasvej 23
3700 Ronne

fax from USA should be
where 45 is the Danish country code

for more info about the whole place try

One of our students just completed his Masters thesis where he
compared the beverage container return system in California versus
the one in Sweden. I will assume that it is relative easy for people
on greenyes to obtain info about the California AB 2020 with
amendments so I'll say a few words about the Swedish system.

Based on political pressure and failed attempts to establish
voluntary systems of aluminum can returns, the brewers, can
manufactuers and retailers formed a not-for-profit company in the
mid-80s called Returpack which administers the systems of returns, the
financial flows, and acts as a forum to settle disagreements among
the parties involved. Al cans in Sweden have a 0.50 SEK deposit per
can (which is about 7 US cents). The deposit is on the can and you
get this back by the can. Almost all cans are returned to reverse
vending machines. The RVM's register each can and crush them. This
keeps bookkeeping simple and reduces the volume of cans stored
temporarily in the store. The return rate is over 90%.

With Sweden's entry into the EU the problem arose of non-Swedish cans
being placed into the RVMs and Returpack being forced to pay out
returns on non Returpack system cans. The solutions was to rebuild
all the RVMs to read the EAN (European Article Number, the European
equivalent of the UPC barcode) so that only cans bought in Sweden
could register a bona fide return. Non-Swedish cans are kept by the
machine without registration.

Finland introduced a similar system this year.

In 1994 the decision was made to expand the Returpack Al can system
to include PET bottles. Here there is a differentiated deposit based on volume,
$0.15 for those under 1 liter and $0.30 for those over. The return
rate for under 1 liter is 60% while that for over 1 liter is 93%.

If this sounds interesting to any of you I'll make sure that you get
access to a copy of the thesis (pending the permission of the
author!) either printed or as an attachment to an e-mail message.

One final note: in most places in Scandinavia curbside collection
with the exception of paper and glass is rare. Instead there are
recyling depots located here and there within walking distance
of most households. One of the reasons for this is the relatively
high rates of households in apartments or rowhouses. Quite
different from American suburbia. So some of the concern about
separate collection systems of beverage containers "taking from"
curbside just isn't an issue here.

I'd be happy to answer additional questions but because of lack of
time now I'll have to collect any enquires received and answer them
in one return message.

Joe Strahl


Joe Strahl

The International Institute for
Industrial Environmental Economics
at Lund University, Sweden

P.O. Box 196, S-221 00 Lund

direct tel. +46 - 46 - 222 02 28
telefax +46 - 46 - 222 02 30